The other night, Akemi and a few of our closest friends were fortunate enough to attend a Gelato 101 class hosted by the award-winning James Coleridge (winner of the 1st “Maestro Gelatiere Award” at the Florence Gelato Festival, and considered one of the world’s top artisan gelato makers) at his Bella Gelateria in downtown Vancouver.
James, a graduate of Carpigiani Gelato University, started off by giving us an overview of the world of gelato, pointing out the differences between gelato and the more readily available ice cream (gelato has roughly half the amount of fat and air, and is actually served at warmer temperatures). He talked about his education in Italy and a reprimand he received for daring to question the prevalent use of chemicals in the gelato-making process. To his credit, James doesn’t criticize those who make use of the chemical mix, instead lauding them for trailblazing the gelato movement in North America. All the same, he eschews the mixes and chemicals in favor of premium, all-natural ingredients. It’s something he feels he owes to not only his customers, but his family as well.
Following the preliminary introduction, we were ushered into the laboratorio (Italian for “laboratory”, natch). Apparently, most gelato shops maintain an air of secrecy surrounding their products and recipes, so no photography is ever permitted within their walls. He, on the other hand, has a more open approach and invited us to snap as many pics and videos as we wished. Which was great because it meant I didn’t have to rely on my hidden button cam.
Once we were in the kitchen, the real hands-on instruction (and tasting) began!
James talked about his education in Italy and winning first prize at last year’s Florence Gelato Festival for his toasted pecans, sea salt and maple syrup gelato. He started us off by allowing us to sample an unbelievable caramel base. We then moved onto a base for one of his chocolate ice creams…
We were then offered a taste of the various chocolates that go into the different gelatos – only the best of the best, Michel Cluizel, ranging from creamy 45% milk to darker than dark 99%.
We melted some dark chocolate, heated it in a pot, then blasted it with this industrial mixer…
After which the whipped mixture was poured in here –
Then, it was paddling time!
We each took turns using the ice cream paddle to scoop the finished gelato out without breaking the machine, paddle, or our jaws.
Further tasting ensued. James demonstrated the correct way to spoon a sample, using a sideways swipe that yielded roughly 3-4 times more gelato than the the more traditional straightforward scoop. We sampled one of his newest, a Limoncello Cheesecake gelato that was so good I ended up buying myself another scoop after the class ended.
We also sampled the greatest pistachio gelato I’ve ever had made from the world’s greatest pistachio’s (Bronte pistachios that are the most expensive of expensive Sicilian pistachio’s which are, in turn, the most expensive of Italian pistachio’s which are, in turn, the most expensive of the world’s pistachios).
Fun, informative and, above all, delicious!
Screw television. I’m going to Gelato University!